Race Determines Your Sentence

By: Ashley Valera

It is still apparent in today’s society that White Americans and Black Americans are treated differently. Especially in America’s legal system. Our legal system is based upon the saying “you’re innocent until proven guilty”. That is until you’re accused of looking “shady” or “suspicious” even though that’s just a way of profiling a person. This inequality starts within the school system, across social media, and finally into the legal system.

“Black kids get arrested while White kids get help” is the article I read which studies show the same type of inequality that we see in the legal system in our school system. According to this article, if a Black student or a student of color were acting out and showing behavioral issues they would be labeled as a disobedient student who doesn’t want to learn. They would then be referred to discipline for expulsion, suspension, or even arrest. But if a White student were showing the same behavioral issues they would be seen as struggling and it would be recommended that they seek medical attention or a psychologist to figure out the root of this behavioral problem. This treatment shows the school system criminalizing Black students in our society and giving up on their education because they were never offered the help.

Race determines whether you’re sentenced to the principle or to a psychiatrist.

In today’s culture the media plays a big part in supplying us with news but that news is often swayed. We often see Black people or people of color put to shame while White people are awarded for their same actions.

In this instance you see two pictures shot after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. One image showing a young Black man in chest deep water whose actions are criminalized as “looting a grocery store”. Another image shows a White couple whose actions were portrayed as brave “finding bread and soda from a local grocery store”. Just by changing a few words can change the whole context of these same pictures and sway the public’s opinion on these groups. This shows the media treating the actions of people fighting for survival differently and twisting it to criminalize the actions of the Black man and award the actions of the White people.

“Same day. Same channel. Same crime. Same author.” the only difference the color of their skin. Another instance of the media twisting things in favor of White men and criminalizing Black men.mugshots Two groups of men arrested for burglary but the images representing these two groups could sway your opinion on them. The news chose to display school photos for the White men; but mugshots were displayed for the black men. This shows the media planting seeds in the readers’ mind’s that the black men are already criminals; while depicting the white men as educated students. Just from looking at these photos which “represent” who they are, the Black men already look guilty and the White men seem innocent. We can see that even though these two groups were written about in the same day by the same author that they weren’t portrayed fairly by the media.

Race determines how you’re represented in the media.

In a study that covered 58,000 federal criminal cases it was found that Black people receive a significantly longer sentence than White people do for committing the same crime. “Black Americans receive almost 60% long[er] prison sentences than white Americans” do when convicted.

 Race determines your prison sentence.

In all of these instances we see something called institutional racism which is defined as being “a pattern of social institutions giving negative treatment to a group of people based on race”. Which is all too common in today’s society. These are just a few examples of it but I’m sure that in your everyday life you can see this same discrimination happening around you in school or work, in the media, and in law.

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4 thoughts on “Race Determines Your Sentence

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  1. Really good article and your research on it was great! Media constantly showing bias against minorities and white Americans.


  2. Hi Ashley, I enjoy reading your blog post about how “race determines your sentence.” I really like the example you gave about the two pictures that were taken after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I believe that it wasn’t fair that the media had to change a couple of words to make the young black man the “bad guy” when the white couple was doing the same thing as him. We live in a society where people judge people of color and this makes me want to take action and stand up for their rights. Thank you for this post because it reminds me how unequal the legal system is.

    -Kathy Nguyen


  3. Really interesting blog post. It is a real shame that in a country such as the US, bias continues to be so prevalent in both the justice system and the media. It’s sad how the media unknowingly or knowingly continues to portray people differently based on the color of their skin.


  4. I couldn’t agree with you anymore that these ideas come from within our school systems, social media, and into the legal system. It sucks that the African American community gets treated unequal for having the same issues as a White American but it is the truth. Why can’t they receive help just like the other student, that isn’t right all and so upsetting.Its crazy how they flip the words around on the images of the young boy getting food and the white family seen so brave and bold. Amazing article and very good images that help tell the information.


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